40 years and counting
The anniversary of the 1967 Naksa was not the biggest of issues, write Gamal Nkrumah
and Mohamed El-Sayed
The painful remembrance of the 1967 Naksa was shunned by most writers and commentators. Perhaps pundits resorted to the curious technique of collective amnesia. Painful memories are better forgotten. However, a few columnists did broach the subject. Ibrahim Eissa, writing in the daily independent Al-Dostour, about the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War, made reference to the prickly subject of Egypt, and other Arab countries fighting Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. Egypt's war with Israel cost it dearly. And, the June 1967 defeat had horrendous political and socio-economic repercussions. "As the 40th anniversary of the 5 June 1967 defeat draws near, you will hear and read a lot about the sacrifices Egypt presented for the sake of Palestine, and that the Palestinian cause is behind Egypt's embroilment in wars and crises and crippled our economy and hindered development... but these are sheer lies. And the bigger the lie, the more people believe it." Eissa was careful to show that Israel exacted a terrible retribution on Egypt. It was a war that continues to this day to cloud Egyptian attitudes towards Israel even after the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Eissa drew parallels with Japan in the aftermath of World War II. He compared Egypt unfavourably with Japan. "In 1945, Japan was completely destroyed and hundreds of thousands of its people perished and were injured due to the firing of two atomic bombs... it rose from the ashes to lead the industrial world and compete with the American economy. While we in Egypt have been in strategic peace with Israel for 30 years, we haven't evolved like Japan... we have reached the bottom of the industrial world."
Perhaps Eissa forgot that Japan was a highly industrialised and technically sophisticated country with a formidable war machine while Egypt is a developing country with an economy that was heavily reliant on the agricultural sector. Egypt's nascent industrial sector suffered terrible damage during the war. It was harsh of Eissa to criticise the Egyptians. The comparison between Egypt and Japan is grossly unfair. Germany and Japan after World War II can be compared, but Egypt is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Eissa also reserved some scathing criticism for the politics of war. He claimed that Egypt did not benefit at all from the war politically.
"In the wars [we embarked upon against Israel] we lost Palestine, and [by entering into peace with Israel], we lost Egypt."
In sharp contrast, Mohamed El-Sayed Said writing in the daily Al-Ahram about the Naksa warned that there was not enough introspection and retrospection in the aftermath. "Neither Nasser nor Sadat commented on the causes of the defeat. It was simply attributed to some individuals who hadn't done their job properly, and hence the defeat was interpreted as a mere incident that didn't indicate any essential defects in the structure of the society or the state."
In the immediate aftermath of the Naksa, Abdel-Hakim Amer, the second man in the regime of Nasser, was blamed for the defeat. "The people, in fact, knew the reasons behind the defeat: it didn't happen because of some individuals who didn't fulfil their duties. Rather, it took place because of the authoritarian nature of the [then] regime, as rulers were not freely elected by the people, despite the fact that the people were willing to elect them. And it happened because senior officials, starting from the head of the state to the mayor of a village, were not held accountable. There was no accountability because there was no free press... political parties were banned."
On a totally different note, the press was replete with articles about the ill-treatment of Egyptian girls working in the oil-rich Gulf Arab states. Another leftist activists, Aida Seif El-Dawla, writing in the daily Al-Dostour, warned against the ripple effects of the agreement signed by the Minister of Manpower and Immigration Aisha Abdel-Hadi with the Saudi Chamber of Commerce to send maids to work in Saudi Arabia, and the expected ill- treatment and sexual abuse of them. Some officials said that whether the maids are working in Egypt or abroad, they will face sexual harassment.
"There is no logic in this claim [as stated by some officials]. Have we reached such a level of inhumanity that we no longer care about those powerless [women]?"
"The minister of manpower should have cared about the strike by women in the Misr-Spain Weaving Company to recapture their lost rights. She should have been keen to solve the problems of women working in private factories without contracts, insurance or any rights."
In much the same vein, Lotfi Nassef wrote in the daily Al-Gomhuriya about sending Egyptian women to work as maids in Saudi homes. In "Exporting maids will tarnish Egypt's image and role", he wrote, "since we all know what happens to Asian maids working in the Gulf region, we pity our young women who will face the same problems without any protection.
"Those who live in the Gulf region know very well the sufferings of maids... so I totally reject the idea of sending Egyptian maids to work there." He forgot that economic necessity forces the women of Egypt to seek employment opportunities abroad.